As this is a politically theme blog, I think it is only right that I comment on the Scottish Referendum. It may be a week on but its still relevant.
Firstly I am heartbroken and devastated the country I call home has missed an opportunity to further itself politically and socially. For the past two years I have been pro-independence, and often have been ridiculed by family and friends, most commonly for not being Scottish. I was brought up in Northern Ireland, in a rather conservative protestant environment. When I left school, I looked for a course that wasn’t taught in Ireland, this happened to be Landscape Architecture in Edinburgh; thankfully my sister was there and was able to keep an eye on her ‘disabled’ brother, and I was able to escape.
By being in Scotland for the past thirteen years, it has shaped me; maturing me into the person I am now. I am Scottish and generally have little pride in my Northern Ireland heritage and do not identify myself as being British, probably European before considering being British.
People claim that the United Kingdom was created to show the world a sense of unity, a state that strengthened the immerging industry and maintained the grip of the empire, which are dearly outdated. In 2010, Cameron says ‘we are in this all together.’ From what I saw in the independence movement, there was nothing but a sense of unity, inclusion and equality. Those with closed minds clung onto the notion that the SNP and the movement where nothing but merely backward, racist and xenophobic.
I recently did one of those online trivia tests, this was the ‘Can you pass the UK citizenship test, most people can’t’. I passed but one of the questions asked if ‘British values and principles were based on history and traditions.’ It was in a true or false format. The answer was true – this made me think. As a disabled gay man, two things that traditionally would have disadvantaged me, people like me would face inequality and discrimination and unfortunately still do in 2014. History is extremely important but idealistic as it sounds, my society’s values should be based on fairness and equality – values I saw at the heart of the independence movement. An additional point, history is too often portrayed from the victors’ point of view and we are too educated to know not everything is simple as black and white.
My father has no time for religion, a fundamentalist atheist; he gets very annoyed when anyone talks about it, I think it’s my father’s absolute conviction that made me question the loyalists in Northern Ireland. After thirteen years being away from my birthplace, I see the union flag as a reminder of a tool to intimidate and to encourage fear and to show a hatred towards to Catholics. To me the union flag only reminds me of oppression, bigotry, sectarianism, inequality and the royal family. I really cannot see the value of a Union in modern times and I felt it was Scotland’s opportunity to say, thank you, but it’s time to move on. It was Scotland’s chance to show England, Wales and Northern Ireland that the tradition of inequality and discrimination had no place in modern times.
Gordon Brown made a very powerful and convincing speech in the last week of the referendum – it was impressive. He promised Scotland more powers and an exact timetable, after the supposedly victory the British politicians are now backtracking, which I predicted. It was funny that so many people put their faith into a shadow government politician who as prime minister failed to make the Liberal Democrats an offer good enough to form a coalition government. In turn creating the ‘Tory’ government, though the Liberal Democrats went against what its voters stood for, in theory disrespected them, severely damaging their own reputation for decades to come. I do wonder if Scottish Labour will meet the same fate; my partner is now a paying member of the SNP despite being a ‘No’ voter until a few months ago. There is an absolute feeling of mistrust, a feeling that soon needs addressing and resolved.
For me the redistribution of wealth in our country is something that must be dealt with. It makes me extremely sad that so much effort and time is put into the Duchess of Cambridge, her son George and her pregnancy. You can call me scandalous but I am not of the belief that she and her children were placed on this earth to rule with divine authority: this isn’t the Game of Thrones. Every child should be born equal, every child should be provided with the suitable education, every child should be given meals that nourishes them and have the feeling of safety and protection. The association with the United Kingdom and the royal family is one that I believe must stop, children on the land are going hungry and we are celebrating and wasting resources on a single family. It’s easy to claim that they keep the nation together and are excellent for tourism, France doesn’t have a monarchy and their tourism industry is doing just fine. When you are hungry and have been abandoned by hope these excuses are meaningfulness, they are only excuses shouted comfortably by the middle classes and those raised on loyalist sectarianism.
You might say, I have demonstrated my dislike towards the United Kingdom; not really saying why I believe an independent Scotland was so appealing to me. I didn’t think that an independent Scotland was going to be one of the wealthiest countries and be a world player. I think a country should be modest; being told that Scotland was no longer going to be a world player excited me. Research has proven that smaller countries have a fairer democratic system, wasn’t this not a better way to achieve a more equal society? There wasn’t anything else as exciting I could imagine than the possibilities of setting up a new country, there wasn’t as anything fearsome or dangerous than Scotland staying with the status quo.
I waivered my decision, about a month before the vote, I was really getting worried about the nationalism being attached to the independence vote, and perhaps I was missing something. Was Salmond really a dictator? Did I hate Cameron so much that I wanted to break up the United Kingdom to get back at him and his voters for prosecuting the disabled? Where the SNP just piggybacking the goodwill of the independence movement? What about the vulnerable in London, Belfast, Liverpool, Swansea and every other city and town currently included in the United Kingdom? This where things I started to hear from the pro-union side because their economic arguments where weakening, and project fear tactics didn’t necessarily work on those who questioned.
I went to look to find such answers. Salmond was definitely not a dictator; I find Cameron more deserves that title by using fear and blame tactics on everything. Yes I do have a strong dislike to Cameron, but I am intelligent enough to know he won’t always be around, though many like him will follow. The SNP’s aim is to bring about an independent Scotland; it is easy to dismiss them as having no political stance. Though I believe in the last seven years they have developed as a party and those involved within the independence movement would surely influence the SNP’s future policies and politicians. The hardest one was to think of the people who are disadvantaged across, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Was I turning my back on so many of the vulnerable or making so many Scottish even more vulnerable by breaking away? I came to the conclusion that the system was not currently working; these people have traditionally been ignored for centuries. Scotland could have broken away and have at least started to look afresh at the problems surrounding social reform and the rest of the nations could have peered over and have been inspired. Instead we are left with the four nations debating how much power they are going to give each other, the Scottish question will be lost within the England reform debate. All the while the most vulnerable are continued to be ignored.
So why is Scotland the loser or perhaps the winner? Scotland lost its opportunity to break away, thank the union for its three hundred years of service. Politely say the reason it was created no longer applies to Scotland, it was it’s time to make head and create a society that reflects its people both politically and culturally. How exciting was that? We still won because I very much see that still being much on the agenda, there is very little difference between devo-max and an independent country. If the Scottish people are not happy with the speed or the deliverables of promises they were given, then another Edinburgh Agreement will be made within the next five years.
On a statistical comment it was interesting to see the Lord Ashcroft poll made on referendum day, out of 2047 adults 62% of no voters always knew how they were going to vote compared to 38% yes voters. It was disappointing to see that a high proportion of no voters perhaps stubbornly did not necessarily explore the debate. Most of my social circle where in the yes camp (many only came out during the last weeks coming up to the vote). Those who where stoutly ‘no’s’ where generally English or Northern Irish and this seemed to be an acceptable valid reason – a fear of them becoming a foreigner. The poll also suggests that it was the over 65s that where strong no voters 73%, the age bracket contributes to roughly 16.5-17% of the population, considering roughly 13% of the population are under 17, the 65+ vote is very important. Personally I find it very disappointing that the age group did not possibility explore the debate fully, I wouldn’t say that they where to blame as I think the mass media played a significant part in bombarding them with fear and gloom.
Understandably tensions in Scotland are very high, this will wain off in a week or two. It is important that both sides come together, and actually achieve something rather than fighting about what they where voting for. Both sides are suspicious of one another; I think both just see each other as nationalists rather than socialists. For me it’s hard to see the union flag being flown without seeing loyalist connotations – of god and queen and the intimidation of Catholics. I strongly suspect there is an element of that but those in favor of the union are denying it. I should give them the benefit of the doubt.
So what’s my part? By writing this blog I have given myself clarity, I am in parliament to try to change the way the disabled are viewed in the United Kingdom, I think we are second class citizens and people are extremely defensive if you say that. That defensive attitude speaks volumes. We are second-class citizens in the terms of the way we are seen, in terms of employment and social status. Many of us hung onto the independence movement, no one can blame us for that, we weren’t fooled, we where part of it and felt included. I need to continue to make people aware of our status, it’s not a pretty or a comfortable role but I’m doing it for my own conscious, self-respect and those whose voice are easily ignored. The more voices they hear, the better, so come and join me comrades.